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tv   Equal Time  PBS  October 22, 2016 1:30pm-2:01pm PDT

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should you bulk up at the gym or stretch out your limbs on the open road? weightlifting vs running on this edition of equal time. [music] from the campus of san jose state university, welcome to this edition of equal time. i'm your host journalism school director, bob rucker. if you've ever tried to get into tip-top shape you know how hard it can be. the choices of exercise can tip the balance. equal time correspondent tony nunez begins our coverage with a look and running. bri lambert can't stop running.
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the silicon valley resident is a personal trainer an ultra-marathon runner. she only runs distances of 50 or more miles >> i really believe that this is what i'm meant to do and i absolutely love it. running for me is -- it's not just about the sport and it's not just about competition. it's about being able to get outdoors and be in the natural environment around me. and that's not a trend. sjsu professor tamar semerjian says there's something special about exercise when it comes to unplugging from the world. exercise does something more. like it's not just the distraction that leads to all the psychological benefits. because there's lots of ways -- we can just play video games >> right. right we could -- there's lots of things we could do where we shut off the world and we don't think about our problems. there is something unique about exercise. lambert uses the trails to focus on herself. it's important to check out and to slow down and to just -- to just be.
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and i think for me what running does is allows me to do that. running 50-plus miles is in no way easy. so where does that mental toughness come from? lambert says it comes from within. you visit your pain cave. i also think about times in my life when i've had to, you know, overcome, you know, divorce and i overcame an eating disorder. i have a daughter we went through a really difficult time in her life . she was struggling with depression each of those has been hard. and so i think about -- about that. and you know i think, "man you know i got through that time. and if i can get through that then i can get through this." you know i can -- i can climb you know 12,600 feet. and get up and over a mountain. because that's nothing compared to what i've been through so which of the two is best for your mental health? running or weightlifting?
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from a sports psychology, an exercise psychology perspective i don't care what you do, right. i don't care if you do zumba, i don't care if you run, i don't care of you swim. do something. and what's really important is to find something you enjoy. when we come back we have some heavy lifting coming your way. stay with us. [music]
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we've seen how running can be beneficial to a healthy lifestyle. but what about another alternative to getting in shape? weightlifting. tony nunez continues our coverage. san jose state student, alex pelkey has a tightly packed day-to-day life. he sometimes works 30 hours a week with spartan catering. and it's also a full-time student at the school - in the silicon valley. despite the dense schedule he still finds time to do what he loves. lifting barbells with hundreds of pounds on each end. weightlifting is really important to me and i really have to try and make sure that i like make time for it. and so the important part is that i just try and balance my schedule really well. pelkey took up powerlifting three years ago in an attempt to get more involved in school. he wound up finding a passion and a lot more. i've definitely done stuff now that i never thought i could before. and i think a lot of that is also because of the confidence
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i've built from competing and from training and weightlifting and i just think overall the sport has made me mature. and become just a more confident person. pelkey says the benefits of powerlifting on his mental health have been noticeable. not only is a more confident but he also uses the toughness built in the weight room during everyday struggles. being able to come in every day and do the things you do, even when you don't want to is just gonna help you in life. he says he's failed plenty of times while competing. those have been the moments that made the success even sweeter. i would have to say the sports just really challenging, so failing a lot of times really beat you up. but then just at that moment where you do shine and you do succeed makes all of it just worth it. san jose state kinesiology professor tamar semerjian says there's a science to it. pushing to a new level is something all humans crave. that sense of accomplishment that sense of doing the new thing. getting further, getting faster. pelkey's coach todd robinson says what athletes do is not easy.
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both in and outside of the weight room. balancing school and work is tough enough, but throwing another responsibility into the equation is brutal. well it takes a certain "i can do it" attitude. their kind of a stick-to-itiveness. you take on a project and you stick to it. and it takes that. it takes somebody that wants to do it. and wants to get better. though it may sound like another job, ultimately it's an escape for him. it's him, and the weights, and his mental fortitude. when i'm sitting in class are sitting through a work shift, it's almost like the light at the end of the tunnel. when we come back we'll sit down with some impressive athletes. tipping the scales towards their sport. [music]
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welcome back to this edition of equal time. today our focus is on weightlifting and running, and how that affects mental health. let's meet our guests. hi my name is alex pelkey. i'm a fourth-year student here at sjsu. my major is nutritional science with a concentration in dietetics. and i compete in olympic style weightlifting. hi. my name is tim pham, i'm a third year junior here at san jose state. i study kinesiology with a minor in business. and i also compete in the sport of weightlifting. hi i'm bree lambert and i'm a nationally-ranked ultra-marathon runner. and i'm also sponsored athlete with the hurricane team saucony. hi, i'm tony nunez. a senior here at san jose state university. and correspondent on this story. >> very good. folks thank you all for joining us today. i think the audience would be curious know, you guys are great athletes in great shape, but how does that affect your mental health?
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let's take a shot at. alex? i think competing in olympic-style weightlifting is definitely a big stress reliever for me. if classes or work has been really long or if had a long day, i can go to the gym and i can just completely distress. and that really helps me with my day-to-day life. >> how so? well it's just that helps you not become so overwhelmed. like i said school can be a lot especially taking 15 units. and so being able to have time to go to yourself and do whatever you want and for me it's doing something that i'm passionate about. it's really just a place for me to kind of escape from everything. all the stress of the world and then just focus on what i love to do. >> now bree, you say the same thing as a runner? yeah, i would say so i think it's, you know, running is different from what these guys do. but it's definitely a sport that really takes you out of your comfort zone. and allows you to just, you know, tune in to what's happening in your body, with your body. you know, there's a lot of health benefits related to running, and so i definitely think it can help you just relieve stress.
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and also just enjoy what's happening, you know, as you're moving outside. with the activities around you. >> very good. and tim, why don't you weight in on this as well. yeah i definitely feel like it's like a way to escape. you know, you go in the routine of school and work. like i'm taking 16 units are now it's like sometimes i'm just like overwhelmed. and i know like later in the day i'm gonna go in the gym. you know, hit some big weights. really big stress relief. releasing endorphins and stuff like that. >> very good. now... well as tim said too, also it is a way to disconnect from the world. where you have a lot going on, it is kind of just a place for you to go and be yourself almost and do what you love. and so tim kind of touched on that. but i think that's a really big important aspect of it. just be able to disconnect from everything else for however long. >> how'd you guys find the subject? how'd you guys find competitive weightlifting and olympic-style weightlifting? >> i found it through my cousin who owns a cross-fit gym. and one day he kept nagging me about it to just keep trying and keep trying it. and one day i finally caved, and after doing it for about a week i just knew that this was something that was very passionate about.
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and it's something i really wanted to pursue. >> well for me like coming into college, i wanted to try something new. and i always been lifting in the weight room for a while since high school. and i just like start doing power lifting which is a little bit different. but then i started going on youtube and seeing things like weight lifting. they're doing like crazy movements overhead, like snatch looks like the clean and jerk. and i was like "you know what? i want to try this." >> you're a daredevil. >> yeah. >> very good. bree, what are your thoughts? >> you know, i mean -- again i'm not really familiar with with your sport. but i think for me it's, you know i'm an ultra-marathon runner. which means i run distances greater than marathons. so 50 miles and up. and you know for me, i just -- a lot of the races i run are at altitude and they're out in the mountains. where i get to literally climb mountains. and so, you know the challenge of just you know, getting up and over you know a mountain that's maybe, you know going to take me up to 12,000 feet of elevation
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is you know tremendously mentally challenging. but i think it just allows me to just kind of release some pent up, you know, energy and really just focus on, you know what it's going to take to get up and over that mountain. >> very good. and are you setting up your future by doing this now at a young age? in other words, you're gonna go into some business with some career path is going to have some level of stress. and some things that you're going to have to try to manage and time constraints and all that. talk a little bit about that. you're learning that as a journalist and managing stress and deadlines. >> yeah, right now i think being a full-time student and having to do work and in all that stuff. i'm also a full-time journalist at a local newspaper in my hometown. and so it's definitely tough to balance both things. but you also learn how to -- i guess time management is what you learn to do. and it's you're also learning a lot of stuff about journalism.
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you're also learning a lot of stuff about the whole journalism world. but you're learning more about how to balance family -- and because we forget about that sometimes. family, friends, social life, everything else, with work with everything else. and that it makes you a stronger person mentally too. so i could see where they get some mental strength from balancing this stuff. because it is their sport. it's her sport. and it's their sport too. >> and if you ignore your family or friends they'll let you know about it. well when they see you working out when they see you doing this, they're impressed by your dedication your determination. but then how do you keep it over longevity? how do you enable that so that for the rest of your life -- because i hate to break it to you folks, one of these days you're gonna look like me or very close to it. no, not really but you're gonna at least not be able to do all the running or not be able to do all the powerlifting what're you going to do next? how's your body going to react at that point? i think the important part is not to focus on what're you gonna do next, but i think it's to look back and say those experiences are something that i'll remember forever.
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and it's important to pull from those experience and say: what can i gained from that? what did that do for me? how did that help me in life? and so in weightlifting when you do something you never thought you could do before, like you snatch 90 kilos for new personal record, you can leave the gym and say "hey i've done something i've never done before in that gym." why can't i do it in life? why can't i get an a on that project? why can't i get a better job? and so for me it's not so much how can i keep this longevity going, it's how can i pull values from this sport that will help me throughout the rest of my life. >> makings of a professor here. >> yeah i would say so. >> how would you put it? i would go off of that, like learning how to be more confident. but there's also other skills, like you know training. like -- but and certainly in this stage of life with the college you're working, you're doing school, you gotta learn how to time management. so you know, you got like 16 units of class, okay. then you got work. then gotta know how to time it so you can train at the same time. you also have to find time to do homework. that's a really valuable skill, that you need later in life. so that never leaves you. and prioritizing as a runner, you certainly know what that means.
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if you don't know what the obstacles are you can't prioritize how -- you adjust to them. how do you see the transition for you? yeah, exactly i was i was just thinking about what these both of these gentlemen said and i think that you know, i actually coach other runners as well. and some of them are you know business professionals, and so they have very busy lives. they're married, they have families, they have jobs. and they come to me sometimes and say "bree i just don't have the time to train right now even though i set this goal of completing this race. i'm really having a difficult time juggling." and i'll tell them you know, but -- it's important to do it. not only for again, their mental health but also to help them relieve stress. but you know, i say to them: it's a matter of priority and if it's really important for you to accomplish that goal, then you're going to you know, balance. it's that whole work-life balance. and i know even for myself, you know, i'm a mom as well and a businesswoman. and so you know, to maintain the level of commitment to my sport
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requires that i really manage my time wisely. but i also think that, you know, there's value in that. and my health is important to me and also the health of my clients. and so i really try to instill that point, you know, of saying it's that whole work-life balance that you gotta find. >> that's why i think we see a lot of people in the silicon valley running and trying to take care of themselves. but there's also an issue about memory, i think there's been some studies about that, tony. >> yeah, there are studies out there about how being active and just being fit and everything like that, helps you i guess it helps you keep your memories and just helps. >> keeps you sharp. >> yeah, helps you keep stay on point, i guess would be the best way i can say it. keeps you sharp like you said did you feel like you had an impact on your memory or even just mental health when you first started running? well i don't know that i remember there being anything specific to that.
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but i think again it's just i do tend to focus perhaps a little more. but you know when you're running trails you have to pay attention to where you're placing your feet because you know you're running on uneven ground. and there's a lot of obstacles. and so it's going to create some, you know, neural stimulation. because you've got to you know negotiate the trail that you're running on, you know, really well and pay attention so that you don't get injured. so i do think there's some -- there's a mental or excuse me but, you know that component of just mental sharpness, awareness and neural stimulation. >> actually makes sense. but how often do you workout? >> for me, i try to get in the gym at least five times a week. if i have time i'll go a full seven days a week. but typically i try and allow myself two days of rest just to make sure my body is an overtaxed. but that is also dependent on the individual.
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some people can't train everyday and just keep going. others need to take more days off. for me i find that if i train more as you said, i've never heard research about memory, but i just know that from previous research exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which is good. and it can help me focus and also calms you down. and so being a young adult you can also get over stressed that might be something that's really important. >> and you were gonna talk to me a little bit about this notion of energizing your life. working out actually does make you more energized, right? >> yeah, definitely. so how does that help you in school how does that help you in other ways? so while you're working out makes you energized, yes. for schoolwork you're going to the same routine like i said earlier it's kinda gets dragged, gets boring. little excitement in your life, little bit lifting, because you're looking forward to go the gym. and also know just making lifts, crisp fast looking lifts. post them on instagram or something like that. you know, it just adds a little variety, you know. yeah. >> and when you come in our classrooms, we wanna see energize students who are engaging and ready to pick up the gauntlet of whatever the challenge is that day
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and run with it. and so you think that helps to get you going? to do this early in the morning or when do you work out? early in the morning -- like 7am. >> going back to instagram thing has it kind of affected your social life? i guess, being fit and going out there making friends and everything like that? has the sport affected your guys social life? well it helps me -- just introduced to my friends and then i get them into it and get them fit we all like have more healthier like hang outs. you know rather than just like eating food and playing video games, partying, turning up, like we'll just go out of the gym and lift. >> i think you touched on something good there. [laughter] >> also too, with social media there's been a lot of cases for me where i'll post stuff or i'll find other people and maybe follow them back or they'll follow me. and then you might meet up with them at a competition and you can just be like: oh hey i follow your instagram. or, oh i saw that lift, that was really cool and you've made a connection right there with somebody. and i mean that's really important to share ideas with similar people who are interested in the same thing.
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>> and pushing yourself too hard. this running that you're doing, excellent for you, good mental health for you. but you know when your body's saying stop, leave me alone, i've had enough. and when you go over that limit what happens? >> oh gosh. you know it, i mean you just start to cave in, so to speak. i mean i think especially with ultra-marathon racing it's so taxing on the body. and so if you push too much you can actually have the opposite effect, where it overloads your adrenals and you can end up with a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome or overtraining syndrome. and so there's definitely a fine line that you walk in my sport. and it's important to take those rest days. and to really pay attention to how your body's responding when you are getting to that point where perhaps you've just been overdoing it and i think to to your point, you know those -- knowing how much rest you need, knowing when to recover is really important. especially if you want to be competitive the level that i am.
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>> i remember in college, we used to think our bodies were perfect. nothing would ever harm us. we can go forever. we don't have to have sleep. but you do realize you can't do that you do have to give your body a break. and when you do get a break, how do you manage that? because you've got a busy schedule, you've got school, you've got work. you've got your activity. how do you manage all that? to get sleep? >> typically on days that i do take off i try not to do too much. so if i do have school or work i'll try and just take things easy. i'll try and focus really hard on those two things that i do have going on. because those become my priorities for the day and then after that it's a lot of just relaxing, maybe stretching, maybe take a hot bath, take a hot shower. really just trying to calm down and refocus yourself and allow your body to just recover. >> so everybody should have a hot tub. very good thing to help all of you. >> yeah, exactly. >> exactly, and when you get home and you try to explain to your roommates or your family that this is a regiment that i have to stick to for the good of my mental health. how do you convince them to give you time to have that space?
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because some people want your attention. they want you to be with them now i just tell them how it is and if they can't accept that, whatever. but i try to be as like open-minded and like understand them. >> yeah, as yes tim said i think a big aspect of that is ideally they would support us friends and family and say: "oh he's really trying to set his goals and do something important here." and so hopefully they would support you. but i also think a big aspect of that is keeping an open mind, as tim said. because you kinda have to realize that to them this might not be something as important. so they may see it as -- they may not understand why you're going to these great lengths. and so i think having a level of understanding, say you know, it would be great if you could support me. but i also understand maybe if you'd be questioning everything i'm doing. and so just realizing that they may not see it the same way that you do. and i know with my sport i certainly get a lot of that. i mean people that don't quite understand why i would enjoy running 100-mile race.
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or any there any 50-mile, 100-kilometer race. you know they think i'm i'm injuring myself, they think there's something perhaps mentally wrong with me. and so you know they just don't quite, they can't wrap their heads around it. and i just explain to them, it's like any thing that you enjoy doing, really. it's no different than -- than gardening or playing golf. or, you know, i mean it's it's a bit more -- there's more of a commitment but at the end of the day it's still something that i'm passionate about doing. and i'm not hurting myself and so i -- i'm able to maintain a healthy balance. do you guys know any olympic lifters or powerlifters actually do marathons are they or actually run? not maybe to the level that she does. but that do cross-train or something like that. i know a lot of interviews with the elite level of olympic weightlifters, like the world class level, a lot of them has said when they first started out
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they ran a lot to try and strengthen up their ligaments. so that way when they perform the lifts they wouldn't get injured. and also just help with the conditioning. and so a lot of the world class athlete said that in the beginning they did you actually a lot of running to increase their training capacity. >> just making you tougher physically and more mentally? >> yeah because weightlifting can put a lot of strain on the the joints and the ligaments. so your elbows, your knees, your hips, everything. and so they did a lot of running early on to try and strengthen that up as they were growing and as they were learning the lifts. and they all attributed that to their success. and how do you convince yourself, bree to keep running when you're hurting? i mean, you're gonna break down. you're gonna have moments where your body just can't do what your minds telling you to do. >> exactly and so for me it's -- i go into what i call my pain cave. and you know it's it's that place where i just tap into other aspects of my life that have happened that have been really challenging.
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and i'm able to just you know hold onto those moments where i've said "you know what i got through that, i can get through this." you know i got through you know -- a divorce. i can get through this. you know whatever challenge i had to face at the time. and that is really what helps me get up that mountain, work through that low point. and just keep moving on so i can get to the finish line. i love that expression -- that pain cave. >> pain cave. [laughter] very quickly, before we wrap up, i just wanted to say when you're watching other people do weightlifting or when you're watching other people run and you think they're doing it the wrong way, they could be hurting themselves. very quickly, what do you say to them? in my case i understand a lot of people don't like to be approached. it can be really uncomfortable for people and they might feel almost attacked. and so in my case i actually don't really approach people, just because i understand that for some people they rather just be left alone. and if they do get hurt that would be very very unfortunate. and i don't wish that on anybody. but i understand that there is a big personal aspect to doing any physical activity.
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and it can be uncomfortable for people to be approached. >> and everybody's different. everybody's tolerance level is different. but bree, what would you say if there's somebody you see running they're just -- they're asking for trouble. >> yeah, you know, i -- if it's somebody i know then i have no problem expressing to them that i think they should improve their form. and most of my friends know that, you know that's what i do, right. and so they know that i have i have that knowledge. but if it's a stranger and i'm running out on the track or i'm out on the trail, i tend not to say anything. i just think, you know they're gonna experience some degree of pain at some point and then they're gonna hopefully know know to go see a professional and get some help. well if you see me out there doing any of the weight lifting, any of the running, speak to me. you probably know better. this has been great. i thank you all for coming. we thank you for joining us. we hope you'll come back for another edition of equal time. [music]
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